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Tripping the light fantastic

This week: Fire flies and Glow worms; Tripping the light fantastic; Feeling sad;

Clear blue skies and warm spring sunshine
Clear blue skies and warm spring sunshine

We have enjoyed another fantastic week of weather, with clear blue skies on several days and with them, warm spring sunshine.

That said, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, it is raining. The rain is being driven in on a southerly wind, but coming from North Africa, it is a warm wind. The forecast for the weekend is more of the same.

Around the village the Almond trees are displaying their spring finery.

Almond blossom
Almond blossom everywhere

Early in the week I was working in the polytunnel, planting a number of Hippeastrum bulbs which have outgrown their pots.

I have planted them along the edge of the polytunnel where they will get sun and rain. The Hippeastrum are from tropical South America. However I think that they will thrive where I have planted them.

In the polytunnel, on sunny days, the temperature is now over 30ºC, so hot and humid, and definitely tee-shirt weather.

This tropical heat and humidity is exactly the weather that my Mango, Guava and Bananas enjoy.

I have also been weeding and have the first early tomatoes ready to plant out into the prepared beds too.

Once again, the week seems to have flown past and as usual, I have too much to do and not enough time.

Fire flies and glow worms

Clearing up in the polytunnel is about moving the detritus of winter and getting ready for the next growing season. The 2024 season has already started.

In fact the 2023 season barely stopped before the new season began.

As I moved some empty plant pots, there was a hive of activity underneath, where the soil is warm and moist.

A number of Woodlice scuttled away, however my eye was drawn to something I immediately recognised, but hadn’t expected to find.

Glow worm larvae
Glow worm larvae

This female larvae is the Luciola italica, the Italian Firefly.

In past years I have searched for fire flies and the females, known as glow worms. Last year from mid M ay to mid June at dusk I was walking the paths around my home, but never saw any.

Now it seems they have found me in my polytunnel.

There are four types of firefly in Croatia according to the Krešo Krijesnica research group. I was unsure whether this was Lampyris noturnica, the common glow worm, however because I also got a photograph of the underside, I am happy it is Italica.

Glow worm underside
Glow worm underside

They like lime soils (which sums up my orchards), damp places and they feed on snails. I have a lot of snails, so they are a most welcome addition.

I will be able to be found in my polytunnel on summer evenings at dusk this year, watching for their green flashing bioluminescence…

Luuciola italica
Luuciola italica Photo: inchecs.ch

Tripping the light fantastic

I have been waiting for a day like we had on Wednesday since October. I was waiting for a day with low humidity, thick cloud, no rain, no wind and not too cold.

The reason is I need to do a service on my rooftop solar water heater. I don’t want to be be “Tripping the light fantastic” on a wet and slippery roof.

Assiduously watching the weather forecasts, this week seemed like the first opportunity in four months.

Service time for the solar water heater
Service time for the solar water heater

On Wednesday I started by draining the fluid which fills the high performance heating tubes and circulates inside the tank to heat the domestic hot water.

This in another of “Ivan the Terrible plumber’s” jobs. He filled the system on installation with a fluid called Valliant.

When I was doing the service on the system three years ago, after purchasing another expensive replacement 80 litres of Valliant, I discovered it had gone black.

The company told me that it should not have been used in my system.

This time, I need to flush the system before refilling with the correct alternative, called Antifriz NF, made by a company called Pena.

Once again the fluid I drained was black and smelly. Each of the tubes holds four litres, so I was up and down a ladder numerous times, to empty the watering can I was using to hold the removed fluid.

This stuff kills plants with a vengeance, so I had to collect and dispose of the drained fluid properly.

After draining I then looked at the silicone gaskets and saw that there were corrosion marks on them.

Tubes removed
Tubes removed

Looking closely at the installation it is corrosion on the outside of the cast iron fittings, not the inside. The fluid has done what it was supposed to do inside and kept the system rust free..

I washed all the sealing rings in hot soapy water and left them to dry. The next job was to clean and dry the cast fittings.

After already spending five hours to get to this point, I realised I needed to let everything dry before I attempted to remove the corrosion, and treat the sheet steel outer skin.

Everything was left overnight and I continued on Thursday morning. There was sunshine on Thursday so I covered the tubes with old curtains to prevent them being damaged in the sun, when not connected to the system.

Roof work - covering the removed solar tubes.
Roof work – covering the removed solar tubes

With emery paper I removed some surface rust around the tube holes, then I applied a rust prevention paint where I had cleaned the outer skin.

After rust removal, repainting completed
After rust removal, repainting completed

After leaving the paint to dry I cleaned the tubes, added antifreeze and refitted them.

Decanting 25 litres of Antifriz into more manageable size containers.
Decanting 25 litres of Antifriz into more manageable quantities

Once again, in two short paragraphs, I have summarised a full day’s work!

Feeling sad

My supply of wood is reducing, as the end of the winter burn season approaches.

The last effective date for frost in Dol is the 14th February. In fact we have had no temperatures below Zero at all so far this winter season.

Next door in the property I purchased last year, there is a lot of old furniture, all of which has been attacked by wood worm.

Traditional Croatian stone buildings
Traditional Croatian stone buildings – But need some renovation

I decided that I need to clear the building which is attached to my home, in preparation for a new roof and that the old furniture could fuel my wood stove.

I mentioned last year that the place is just as the previous owner left it, some forty years ago. Clothes hang in the wardrobe and the glass and china was left ready for the next meal.

Clothes still hang in the wardrobe
Clothes still hang in the wardrobe

As I started clearing the cabinets in the living room, I felt immense sadness for the people I’ll never meet.

When they left for the last time, they were clearly planning on coming back. In the drawers were post cards, receipts for work on their car (the last dated1986), a sewing kit, knitting needles and wool.

In the pantry were jars of honey, spices and herbs, tins of sardines and bottles of spirits.

The lady must have been house-proud because bedding and table cloths were all clean and folded in the cupboards.

The ceiling has come in where the old roof has given way. The floor boards have rotted through in places and damp has caused mildew on the cloth.

I moved the smaller items of furniture out into the courtyard, when I cut it up into manageable pieces for the fire.

Ready to cut
Ready to cut

In another drawer I found a small box of family photos and other pieces of every day life.

There is still a lot more to clear, however this is one of those jobs I just need to press on and do. NCG